We're continuing to study in this amazing chapter, John 10, and learning more about our Shepherd, and about ourselves as His sheep . . .
Let's dive right in and read verses 1-6:
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.
John notes that Jesus was using a figure of speech, but that His listeners did not understand what He was telling them.
Let's look at it together, and see if we can do better!
The reason for this image is from the agrarian society and herd practices of the era. There would often be huge, shared sheep pens.
A number of people in the town would cooperate to construct a pen, then hire a watchman to guard the pen. They would turn all of their flocks into the pen together -- there might be four or five herds in the pen.
When it was time to go out to the pastures or to water, each individual shepherd would go in and call to the sheep that belonged to him. They would recognize their master's voice and follow him out of the pen.
Another interesting thing in this analogy is that the shepherds of the time didn't drive their animals from behind. They walked in front, and led them where they needed to go.
These sheep were so bonded with their particular master that if they heard a voice of a stranger they would run away!
So here is the image in these verses:
- Smart sheep can be in the midst of a large group of other sheep
- They will listen until they hear the voice of their master
- They will come to him, and follow him wherever he leads them.
- They will run from someone who calls them, but is a stranger to them.
We can see here that hearing is much more than just using our ears. It's more, even, than understanding the message with our brains. It's all about receiving the message -- accepting it, making it a part of who we are, and then obeying it. Anyone can read the Bible. Many do, and they get very little out of it. We need to be sheep that take that Bible reading to heart, and following the commands that we find there.
Here is James 1:22-25. It has a lot to say about this:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
Do we yearn to hear the voice of our Shepherd? Are we longing to hear the voice of the One who cares so deeply for us? We can hear it in our private worship and devotions (or in corporate worship in a church setting) when we search the scriptures and pray. His voice is right there in our Bible, and His words of grace are there, from cover to cover. If we want to hear His voice more clearly, we need to be in the scriptures and in prayer each day. It doesn't have to be a lengthy study; even if it is just fifteen minutes at the start or during the day. (I personally find that if I leave it till the end of the day, I'm so tired that I don't get as much from it!)
If we will build a habit of daily study and prayer, our relationship with Jesus our Shepherd will grow and we'll be blessed abundantly.